Robert was educated at Royal High School, Edinburgh. He then became an apprentice to the Law under Mr A C D Vert, S.S.C. Edinburgh. He was described as being very musical and was an exceptionally fine cello player. He joined the R.A.M.C., T.F. in March 1913, and at the outbreak of war volunteered for foreign service. He entered the war in the Balkans on 6th June 1915, and served in Gallipoli from the beginning of July. At the end of October, he was invalided to Malta. He then returned to the UK via the 'Chain of Evacuation', rejoining his unit in January 1916. Robert died in Craigleith Military Hospital from heart trouble following dysentery, contracted while on active service on the Peninsula. He was the second son of James Duncan (Master Slater) and Jane Thomasina (Daughter of James Dee) of 7 Sciennes Road, Edinburgh.